A model presents creations from Chinese brand Taoray Wang’s 2019 spring/summer collection at the New York Fashion Week on Sept 8. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
Earlier this month, designers, models, photographers and fashion bloggers from different countries shuttled between venues in the Big Apple for New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2019.
The biannual event, which recently lowered its curtain, showcased upcoming as well as established designers from the world of fashion.
On the week-long event's schedule, there were 33 Chinese designers and brands, a full quarter of the total.
Last year there were only 16.
The names included well-established brands such as Bosideng, JNBY and Semir, as well as designer brands such as Jason Wu, Taoray Wang and Vivienne Hu.
Design guru Simon Collins says though more Chinese brands and designers are participating in the premier fashion event in the world, " I don't think they are all showing to their best advantage".
Collins, who worked as dean of the school of fashion at Parsons for seven years, after a career as a fashion designer and creative director for some of the world's leading brands, including Nike, Polo and Zegna, says what seems to happen is that Chinese brands and designers "do multiple shows and sometimes they work with people who aren't perhaps experts at creating a show. The audiences are mostly Chinese".
"So I don't think they are really getting the return that they should," he adds.
Collins thinks Chinese designers should stop worrying about proving to people that they are Chinese.
"The rest of the world doesn't want to look Chinese any more than many Chinese people wearing traditional Chinese clothing," he says.
"This desire to use Chinese motifs to demonstrate the designer is Chinese, I think it's misplaced."
Collins says Western designers don't feel the urge to use their countries' flags.
"Think internationally," he says.
Taoray Wang is a great example of a Chinese brand that thinks internationally, he says.
"You look at her collection, there are no hints that you would know she is Chinese, they don't shout 'China'!
"Of course China is wonderful, they just don't have to push it down people's throats," he adds.
Taoray Wang, the namesake brand founded by Wang Tao, was launched at the NYFW in September 2014, and since then it has been prominently featured in five collections at the event.
Wang agrees with Collins about thinking internationally.
"For a brand targeting the global market, customers should not be defined by race or nationality," she says.
"My customers have an international background, they embrace diversity and are open-minded to try different things," says Wang.
"They are well-educated and well-traveled. They are multicultural. I always put their pursuit as the priority of my designs."
Her newest collection breaks through the traditional colors of suits - black, white and grey - by adding more lively colors like blue and pink.
"Some of my customers, when they talk to me, including Tiffany Trump (an American socialite and model), ask if I can put more beautiful colors in my designs," says Wang.
"That inspired me to think that the new generation of women leaders, they have a very serious side in work, but they are also very feminine," she adds.
For Wang, talking and listening are key.
"When communication is smooth, the globe is flat," she says.
This year, Taoray Wang will start selling from its store in Manhattan's SoHo, along with stores in exclusive malls in Shanghai and Beijing, as part of what she calls a global customer-centric offering.
As for Western brands in China, Harlan Bratcher, the head of global fashion business development at JD, one of China's largest online retailers, where he is responsible for introducing Western brands to China through the platform, says: "Walking down the streets of Beijing, Shanghai or Hangzhou, you see many people wearing Western luxury brands, Valentino, Balenciaga, YSL."
"I believe more than 60 percent of luxury spenders in China are between ages of 18 and 30," he says at a panel discussion on Chinese fashion hosted by the China Institute, where he is joined by Collins and Wang.
As for the future of fashion in China, Bratcher, a retail veteran and entrepreneur who was previously CEO of Reed Krakoff and CEO of an Armani Exchange company for 14 years, says: "There are about 500 million millennials in China and half of them have at minimum a bachelor's degree. This is why I'm so excited about working in China - because these millennials are really becoming middle class. So the power of China, you have no idea how it's going to rock the world."
He also asks why China doesn't have more brands that are internationally well-known "other than Tsingtao beer".
Wang says: "I think brands take time.
"For China, the economy only started to take off 10 to 15 years ago.
"I do believe that after a few years we can change our focus from buying others' brands to innovating and delivering our own brands.
"It's not only about design; it takes time for people to get to know you, to understand you, to accept you, to trust you."
Bratcher agrees, but adds: "It's not going to take that long."
HONG KONG NEWS